With less than two weeks until I run my second marathon, I find myself only starting to think about the race itself. This puzzled me, as my first marathon, only three weeks ago, consumed my every waking thought and action. So on my 6-mi run today, I mulled over the differences between the lead up to both of these marathons.
Flipping back to just over a year ago, I was preparing to run my first half marathon, the Baltimore Half Marathon, with my mind consumed in the days and weeks leading up to it. I had so many questions about how I would do and if I could even do it. Interestingly enough, I had actually achieved the 13.1 distance once in my training, so I knew I COULD do it (and I also ran a 12.5 miler a couple weeks before as well). Things were all pointing to it being a foregone conclusion; I merely had to line up on race day and my legs would take me through a distance I had already achieved. Yet I was still terribly nervous leading up to the race, with so much self doubt crowding my head. I remember getting to the half way point of that first half marathon and actually being sad that all this hype, training, effort over the last few months, and my race was half finished. Another hour or so later and I crossed the finish line, tired, happy and excited that I was able to do such a good job on my first race on that hilly course.
The butterflies of race day returned for my second half marathon in December 2014, but by the time I got to my third half marathon in January 2015, they had lessened significantly. In fact, I wasn’t worried at all about covering the distance, like I was in that first race. Instead, I was simply looking forward to running in Bermuda, which had been my home for seven years, and seeing old friends along the race course. I wasn’t pressing myself for time, and still managed a 2:00:32 race (yes, I wish I would have pushed a little bit harder after I realized how close to I was to a sub-2-hr run), but it was a different approach completely.
Three weeks ago, on the eve of my first marathon, I was a nervous wreck, questioning if I would indeed be able to go the 26.2 miles, especially when my longest training run was 20 miles. Then I got injured in a freak bed-making accident that caused a bulging disc (seriously, that is how it happened. No, I do not make beds anymore.). I could barely walk a couple steps across my living room that day, just five days before the race. I didn’t think I would be able to run. Through the help of my doctor and some great physio sessions with Beth, I was able to get sorted enough to not only start and finish the race, but to run about 23 miles of it. My time was not what I had trained for (4:41:23), but knowing what I had overcome to make this happen made me very proud of this time. While my mind was mostly consumed with thoughts of how much I was likely to walk during the race, if I could start at all, it left little room for full on doubt and ‘panic’ about this epic run. Once I got to the night before the race, however, all the nerves hit in full force and I was a bit of a mess. The self doubt was back. Could I do this? Would I be able to? All the fears and questions I had about my abilities were brought to the surface, spilling over and only started to simmer down when I run across the start line and was officially running the Marine Corps Marathon. Too late to worry at that point; I was already in the middle of the situation.
Which now brings me to this week. Less than four days from the Richmond Half and a mere 12 days until the Tulsa Route 66 Full Marathon. I realized the other day that I have not been worried at all for either of these races. In fact, I only just looked at the course maps for both races yesterday. What does this mean? Well, for me, it was a bit of an epiphany that I have perhaps ‘arrived’ as a runner. At least when it comes to half marathons. There is absolutely no pressure for me on this race. I banged out my 12-mi run in Saturday in 100-degree heat with sore hamstrings and at a slow pace, finishing in just under 2-hrs. My confidence at this distance is incredible. I feel like I can run half marathons in my sleep! What an amazing shift in my mentality from just over a year ago. (OK, I still can challenge myself with trying to speed it up, but right now, I’m not focused on that.)
As far as the full marathon on 22 November is concerned, I’m sure I’ll get a bit antsy after this weekend’s race, but I feel a similar type of confidence (not quite as strongly, obviously) that I will do it. The mystery of what happens between miles 20 – 26.2 are gone. I KNOW I can go that far. I didn’t vaporize at Mile 20. And I finished a 26.2 mile race with my body at about 70% the other week. Are there potential hiccups that can happen to derail my running plans? Sure! I could get sick or injured (which I hope doesn’t happen), but I can’t borrow that trouble. I’m just excited that I can run yet another marathon. With my body a bit healthier this time around (maybe 95% today), I am thinking I should get a better time than at Marine Corps Marathon. (However, Tulsa is a hillier course, so it might not be possible. But I can’t wait to try!)
Reaching a point in your training – whether it is for running, baseball, gymnastics, or anything – where the confidence is suddenly there, is such a great feeling. I am truly amazed at the difference in how I felt two weeks before my first marathon vs. how I feel two weeks before my second marathon. It is night and day. Instead of using up all my mental and physical energy doubting and worrying about whether I can do it, I instead can relax and enjoy the process a bit more. This change in my mentality towards distances has really made me love running, something that I never would have said even a year ago.
Have you experienced a similar shift in your mentality when it comes to running?